New Thought: Linking New Age and Process Thought

Alan Anderson

Presented at the Center for Process Studies Silver Anniversary International Whitehead Conference
Claremont, California, August 6, 1998


Most people today are familiar with the term New Age, whereas rather few know the term New Thought. New Thought is the older movement. New Thought actually has served as a cradle for New Age to a large extent, and New Thought principles underlie much of popular religion and most American success literature from the late nineteenth century to the present. Still, people constantly confuse the two, especially since the term New Thought is so comparatively little known at present.

But New Thought's influence is as prevalent as its name is not. Although society is more than ever in need of what it has to offer, New Thought's substance metaphysical underpinnings, largely shared with New Age, are sorely in need of improvement. Hence we have the beginnings of Process New Thought, which combines process thinking with traditional New Thought techniques, and has sufficient power to assure New Thought's rightful place as the heart and soul of the new age (without capital letters). It is obvious that this would serve as a valuable link between New Age and process thought. Part of this linking has begun as a result of the publication of New Thought: A Practical American Spirituality, which popularizes and simplifies process thought, for example in the "creativity formula": Past + Divine Offer + Choice = Co-Creation.1

Characterization of New Age

New Age is an old name with many meanings,2 apparently going back to Revelation Chapters 21 and 22, and most commonly associated before recent decades with the Swedenborgian Church of the New Jerusalem, also known as the New Church.3

Today New Age is the name given to a social movement involving a collection of interests in occultism, spirituality, personal and social transformation, and the cutting edge of newness in the sciences, education, and other disciplines. It has numerous ancient roots, and appeared as a recognizable force in western civilization around 1970. Marilyn Ferguson, begins the first chapter of her book about New Age, The Aquarian Conspiracy, as follows:

A leaderless but powerful network is working to bring about radical changes in the United States. Its members have broken with certain key elements of Western thought, and they may even have broken continuity with history.

This network is the Aquarian Conspiracy. It is a conspiracy without a political doctrine. Without a manifesto. With conspirators who seek power only to disperse it, and whose strategies are pragmatic, even scientific, but whose perspective sounds so mystical that they hesitate to discuss it.4

A 1977 survey revealed that among the people most admired by outstanding New Age figures are Teilhard de Chardin, C. G. Jung, Albert Einstein, Abraham Maslow, and--Alfred North Whitehead, whom Ferguson cites at least four times.5

J. Gordon Melton et al. in their New Age Almanac characterize New Age as

the latest phase in occult/metaphysical religion, a persistent tradition that has been the constant companion of Christianity through the centuries and blossomed heartily as a product of eighteenth-century scientific enlightenment.6

In the broadest sense, all of us are New Agers simply by dint of being alive today. One need not embrace all aspects of New Age to be considered a New Ager. One might be the soul of social and spiritual conservatism, yet seek the services of a nontraditional health practitioner, and thereby qualify as a New Ager. Despite the lunatic fringe present in any substantial movement, and the occasional abuses and extremes, New Age is basically a good thing, for it represents dedication to physical, mental, social, and spiritual progress.

Historical Characterization of New Thought

As the Declaration of Principles7 of the International New Thought Alliance puts it, "We affirm the freedom of each person in matters of belief." New Thought is a do-it-yourself religion, both as to what it is itself and in what New Thoughters teach that one must do in relation to one's life. To have an adequate understanding of the nature of the New Thought movement, one must have some grasp of its development over the century and a half that it has been coming into existence and becoming what it is today. Before the name New Thought became prevalent in the mid- 1890s, it was known by various names, including mental science and mind-cure; then, as now, it sometimes was called, in a popular sense, metaphysics.

A relatively early characterization of New Thought8, offered by Horatio W. Dresser (1866-1954) in 1917, by which time the movement was fairly well formed and the International New Thought Alliance had been established, emphasizes:

The New Thought, unlike Christian Science, is not a body of doctrine which you are invited to accept before you receive treatment, but is a workable belief which you are asked to put to the test in all circumstances. This belief has grown out of successful experience, and has been made to cover the whole of life because it is said to have brought the desired results.

The implied beliefs are: the immediate or direct presence of God regarded as Spirit; the power of man as a spirit to draw upon the divine presence; and the influence of deeply interior or spiritual states on mental life as a whole, hence on the body. God is thought of as the author of health, happiness, peace, freedom, success; not of their opposites. Hence, the aim is, to put the soul or self into the best attitude to picture or conceive the divine ideal for man, the ideal of health and freedom. The ideal thus dwelt upon in silent receptivity and concentration is forcefully impressed upon the mind, thence upon the deeper self or subconscious mind. The ideal or suggestion has power to eliminate adverse mental and physical conditions. For it is not simply a question of banishing conscious fears and wrong beliefs. It is not these alone that cause our illnesses and other troubles. Our whole mental storehouse must be cleansed. The entire mental life, conscious and unconscious, must become favourable.9

Quimby and some of his followers

New Thought has several major denominations and many independent churches and centers, as well as a great many individual followers with no formal organizational membership. Beyond those classifications, New Thought can be said to be marked by a contrast between (1) the parts of New Thought directly, consciously indebted to the work of pioneer, self-educated-Maine- clockmaker-and-inventor-turned-mesmerist-turned-spiritual-healer, Phineas Parkhurst ("Park") Quimby (1802-1866) and (2) those only indirectly indebted to Quimby. The second group pays special tribute to such leaders as Emma Curtis Hopkins (1853-1925), Malinda Cramer (1844-1906), the Brooks sisters (A. B. Small [1848-1906], F. B. James [1854-1914], and N. Brooks [1861-1945]), Charles (1854-1948) and Myrtle (1845-1931) Fillmore, Thomas Troward (1847-1916), and Ernest Holmes (1887-1960). Not accidentally, with the exceptions of Hopkins and Troward, these were founders of denominations, and their denominations have effectively perpetuated their contributions. For the most part, the teachings of Hopkins and of Troward also have been spread by organizations particularly indebted to their thought. Among the non-denomination founders, particularly honored by the first group (itself non-organized) are the relatively forgotten Quimby, his patients Warren Felt Evans, Julius Dresser (1838-1893) and Annetta Dresser (1843-1935), and their son, Horatio W. Dresser (1866-1954).

A crucial figure whom I have not yet mentioned is perhaps the greatest of all metaphysical organization-builders (at least in her own day), Mary Baker Eddy (1821-1910), founder of Christian Science. Apart from her organization, probably she would be no better known today than other non- organizers whom I have mentioned. She too was a Quimby patient who later taught a system of healing that bore remarkable resemblance to Quimby's.

In Quimby's mesmeric period10 he departed from usual mesmeric belief in the existence of a subtle, perhaps electrical, invisible fluid connecting one mind to another. Instead, Quimby believed in the direct action of mind upon mind. In his final, spiritual, period of development, Quimby continued to use the extrasensory ability developed in his earlier period, to diagnose the conditions of patients and to converse with them silently. This was in addition to his audibly explaining to them that illness was the result of their erroneous beliefs, chosen at the expense of the divine Wisdom (a term that Quimby often used for God), the acceptance of which would bring about healing. Quimby, in this later stage of his life, often said that "the explanation (or the truth) is the cure." In other words, it was the patient's choosing of Wisdom in place of error that produced the always-available healing. Quimby likened this to the planting of seeds of error or of Wisdom in one's individual fertile spiritual soil, or "spiritual matter," which produced a crop of illness or health in accordance with the seeds sown.

This was a conceptualization of a direct process of healing, unlike later New Thought theories--particularly of Troward, and of Holmes following him--that could be called indirect, to the extent that they suggest that one sends (in a non-spatial way) his or her beliefs into a universal unconscious mind, which then automatically responds with the corresponding negative or positive results, created by an impersonal side of God, rather than created directly in the patient as a result of his or her selection of erroneous beliefs or divine Wisdom. In Quimby's thought and in process thought God is the initiator, and the human (or other) being is the responder.

Substitute a series of momentarily developing occasions of experiences for a mind persisting as a substance, rename the relevance of Wisdom to a particular situation "initial aim," continue to recognize that all this takes place in relation to the free choices exercised in moments of selecting from among past errors and divine offers of constructive novelty, and one can see Quimby as a forerunner of modern process thinking in some very important respects.

Eddy and Quimby

Where did Eddy derail the train of Quimby thought that might have become dominant in New Thought? Horatio W. Dresser says:

. . . Mrs. Eddy employed the same terminology [as Quimby did] for the most part in declaring disease an "error" of mind, although she was more inclined to employ negative statements or denials. Mr. Quimby denied that there is any intelligence in matter or that the body had any power to produce disease apart from the mind. But his explanations were concrete and affirmative, based on many years of practice with the sick, and he saw no reason for denying natural facts. Mrs. Eddy's statements were more abstract since she did not enjoy the same advantage of practical experience. She introduced the less intelligible term "mortal mind" in place of Quimby's teaching that the lower mind consists of spiritual substance or "opinions" which grow like seeds in a fertile soil. But in general the contrast between truth and error remains as in Quimby's theory.11

Dresser further observes:

Mrs. Eddy's hypothesis of "malicious animal magnetism" was a departure from Quimby's teaching . . . [and was] strange in view of the fact that Mrs. Eddy had declared that "All is good; there is no evil."12

Dresser also notes that Eddy derived spiritual, symbolic, interpretation of scriptures from Quimby.13

While Quimby scarcely got to a generalized notion of prehension, he was well aware of what today is called remote viewing, and some of his healing was nonlocal, so it is easy to imagine that if he were here today, he would be a process-relational thinker. A hint of this is found in Dresser's statement:

Quimby had taught that minds influence one another far more than we realize, and that minds give off an "atmosphere" . . . 14

Some later contributors to New Thought

How was it that New Thought, with such a heritage from Quimby, should have developed mostly along lines with little awareness of Quimby and with largely pantheistic15 ideas that significantly diverged from his worldview?

It was largely because Quimby did not start an organization and did not publish his writings; his son mostly kept them from the public; and there was no one willing or able to carry on Quimby's practice when Quimby died in 1866. Probably Quimby patient Julius Dresser was the prime candidate, as indicated by Eddy's appealing to him after her famous fall on the ice shortly after Quimby's passing.16 The elder Dresser, who by that time was in newspaper work, replied to her that he was not up to it, added that Quimby had been killed by overwork, and that the better way to spread Quimby's teachings would be by lecturing and by a paper. Dresser apparently did nothing along these lines until after Eddy started spreading the Quimby teachings. In 1887 he published The True History of Mental Science; and later, in 1895, his widow, Annetta, followed with The Philosophy of P. P. Quimby. At first Eddy honestly attributed to Quimby what she taught. Later she repudiated Quimby, claimed the essential Quimby teachings as her own, and started her Christian Science church.

The first published book in the line of development that led to what would become New Thought was written by Quimby patient Warren Felt Evans. This proto-New Thought book was The Mental Cure, published in 1869. (Eddy's Science and Health did not come until 1875, two years after Evans's Mental Medicine.) Evans was a Methodist minister turned Swedenborgian. His early books in the New Thought tradition were clearly Swedenborgian in tone, while his later ones showed the influence of conventional metaphysical idealism and eventually of Eastern and esoteric outlooks. He published five more essentially New Thought books, through 1886, and they were important in the developing movement in the United States and abroad.

The first line of influence

The first line of influence in New Thought was the one flowing directly from Quimby, Evans, and the Dressers. It is questionable whether these writings and Evans's healing practice in Boston and in Salisbury, Massachusetts, as well as the Dressers' endeavors, would have been sufficient to start the New Thought movement, at least as anything like what it is today. In any event, the directly-from-Quimby line of development is now more important than ever, as an inspiration and source of ideas for rethinking New Thought. It is the historical foundation to which New Thought can turn in realizing that for it now to embrace process thought is to clarify and to carry on the most intellectually significant strain of its own early thought.

The second line of influence

The development of the New Thought movement probably required the work of Eddy and one of her assistants, Emma Curtis Hopkins. The latter briefly edited the Christian Science Journal, but ran into difficulties with Eddy and was fired or left. Hopkins founded a school in Chicago and ordained several ministers who went on to found New Thought schools and eventually churches (though none of them ever set out to found an ecclesiastical organization; they were urged into it later by followers).

One of her lesser, if annoying, contributions to New Thought was making somewhat worse than Eddy's the misunderstanding of metaphysics, a term that both of them helped to promote as a name for practical healing. Hopkins characterizes metaphysics as follows:

The study of the lines of reasoning which bring out your healing power is called the study of metaphysics. The word, metaphysical, means "above and away from the physical."17

She also understands metaphysics as the Science of Life, Health, Strength, Support, Defense or Protection, Truth, Love, Substance, Intelligence, and Spirit.18

More significantly, Hopkins offers a positive interpretation contrasting with Eddy's. Hopkins affirms:

Spirit is pure Intelligence. There is no place where matter seems to be intelligent, is there? Yet,"there is no absence of life, substance, or intelligence." If the metaphysicians had said this,rather than "there is no life, substance, or intelligence in matter," they would have demonstrated life better than they have. For if life is Spirit, never absent, why speak of "no life"? And if Spirit is substance omnipotent, why speak of substance as "no substance" anywhere, and the same of intelligence?19

Nevertheless, along with recognition of spirit in, even as, everything, Hopkins taught the nonexistence of matter. She asserts:

Matter and its laws of mind are the fictitious generations of ofttime downward glancing with our efficient visional sense. When this sense is lifted up, what seemed external exists no more at all.20

From this time onward, the not-directly-from Quimby strain of New Thought would be more or less deeply immersed in--if not consistently affirming--pantheism: God is all; there is nothing but God. Along with this would be a proportionate growth in turning Eastward to similarly pantheistic outlooks as sources of inspiration, and to the writings of pantheistically oriented Ralph Waldo Emerson.21

About the same time, without Eddy influence, Malinda Cramer, with Quaker background, and, as with Hopkins, extensive reading in world religions, came up with similar views. Cramer had experienced a miraculous healing in 1885, while Hopkins was still with Eddy. Soon Cramer was joined by the Brooks sisters, Hopkins students who could not accept all of the Hopkins teachings, many of which continued to show Eddy's influence. Cramer was a great admirer of Evans, and may well have been influenced by his thought.

Shortly after this, Unity was founded by Charles and Myrtle Fillmore after Myrtle healed herself of hereditary tuberculosis using methods taught by Eugene B. Weeks, a New Thought lecturer trained in the "old theology," going back at least indirectly to Quimby.22

While no New Thought teaching has been entirely consistent, Unity has escaped from pantheism more than have most. Probably this is at least in part because the Fillmores became aware of the importance of Quimby, who was not a pantheist. According to Neal Vahle, in his Torch- Bearer to Light the Way: The Life of Myrtle Fillmore,23 this came as a result of the publication in 1895 of The Philosophy of P. P. Quimby by Annetta Dresser, and a letter from Horatio W. Dresser in response to a Fillmore review of the book.

Examination of the Pantheistic Strain in New Thought

While almost any New Thought group is likely to affirm that God is the only power and the only presence, it is far from clear that all of them intend this as literal truth, rather than powerful, satisfying, and practically effective figurative overstatement. It may well be that the most important purpose of those who proclaim that God is all is to deny the existence of any Zoroastrian devilish force for evil; this denial of course can be done without resorting to pantheism (and pantheism can defeat the upholder of good by being taken as a denial of the distinction between good and evil, if all is a great One).

The kernel of the problem of pantheism is that one cannot assert pantheism without abandoning logic. Huston Smith was led to admit this in his notable exchange of views with David Griffin, published as Primordial Truth and Postmodern Theology.24

Perhaps the New Thought group that most fully embraces pantheism is Religious Science, also known as Science of Mind. Religious Science is the creation of Ernest Holmes, a seeker who explored numerous outlooks. He studied Christian Science and various forms of New Thought, and was especially influenced by the views of Thomas Troward, a retired British judge who had served in India. Troward drew on Thomson Jay Hudson's The Law of Psychic Phenomena25 Hudson believed in "objective" mind that works both inductively and deductively and in "subjective" mind that responds to objective mind only deductively. Although Hudson espoused "divine immanence without pantheism, and . . . [divine] personality without anthropomorphism,"26 the most influential New Thoughters opted for pantheism. Troward converted Hudson's psychology into the theological belief that there is an impersonal, deductive, mechanical, automatic "Law" side of God. We feed thoughts, hopes, fears, etc. into the Law, and it responds by providing what we knowingly or unknowingly have ordered. This became a central part of Religious Science. Holmes's mystical tendencies and personal instruction from Hopkins near the end of her career probably strengthened his pantheistic proclivities.27

The mystical lure of unity has led many New Thoughters to affirm pantheism apparently without awareness of its problems.28 However, Horatio Dresser attacked pantheism as inconsistent with the existence of genuine human beings with the freedom necessary for ethics.29 Many fail to understand, or refuse to consider, the incoherence of claiming that one freely-choosing thing is another freely-choosing thing, each with a unique perspective. A process understanding of inclusion in terms of prehension, one experience's feeling the feelings of past experiences, makes pantheism utterly impossible, indeed meaningless. One entity can be included in another but not be that other. To say that one is a freely-choosing part of another with a unique viewpoint differing from that other is simply a way of saying that one is not the other, however intimately they are related and however indispensable one is to the other. Something cannot be in itself; it simply is itself. If there is anything in it, the something inside is different from what includes it. Process panentheism of course neatly handles this situation by recognizing free occasions of experience that could not be without having God being included in them (prehended, felt by them) as initial aim, but nevertheless being distinguishable from God.

New Thought traditionally has recognized its metaphysics (in the traditional, philosophical sense that some New Thoughters recognize) as an idealism. However, few ever have drawn the essential distinction between qualitative monism and quantitative or numerical monism. Hence when most New Thoughters assert that all is mind, or spirit (which is idealistic qualitative monism) they assume that this means that there is only one mind (which is idealistic quantitative monism, absolutism), without realizing that within idealistic qualitative monism there is another possibility: there are many minds (which is idealistic quantitative pluralism).

Curiously enough, as it must seem to metaphysical absolutists, it is the pantheistic New Thoughters (as well as pantheists of other stripes) who are constantly inconsistent in speaking most of the time pluralistically--as everyone must--while affirming numerical monism that denies full reality to the many. On the other hand, it is the idealistically pluralistic New Thoughters who are consistent in affirming many minds.

New Thought is not inherently pantheistic. Quimby was not a pantheist, and those who are most aware of his contributions are not pantheists.

Unity Magazine and the International New Thought Alliance quarterly, New Thought, in recent years have published articles and other pieces favorable to process thought, which is the greatest current opponent of pantheism.

If New Thought chooses a pluralistic idealism, it will have to decide what kind of pluralistic idealism to adopt. The most mature form of pluralistic idealism today is the panexperientialism that Process New Thought adopts. Charles Hartshorne has offered such a realistic idealism.30 Process New Thought does not hesitate to recognize panexperientialism (all is experience: psychic occurrence, such as feeling, thinking, wanting, willing, sensing, remembering--which occurrences are what mind is, according to a process understanding) as a type of idealism.

Contributions of Process New Thought to Overall Process Thought

So far, we have seen much that process thought can contribute to New Thought. What can New Thought contribute to process-relational thought? First, it can offer an improved understanding of the nature of healing.

Process New Thought goes far beyond the parts of New Thought that are, like Christian Science, content to proclaim that illness (or other misfortune) is mere appearance and that one need only gain a sufficient awareness of the reality of God in place of the problem in order for there to be a revelation of God that eliminates the problem. (Ernest Holmes said that healing is a revelation, not a process.) In a Process New Thought interpretation of healing, one builds up a more constructive part of the past, facilitating the acceptance of divinely given possibilities for healing of all sorts, by reducing the contrast between the past and the healing possibilities (initial aim) offered by God. Process New Thought recognizes an imperfect situation remedied by acceptance of the possibilities for newness offered by God. What is required is steady cooperation with the loving, persuasive luring of God.

In addition, Process New Thought can call the attention of process thinkers to the many remarkable instances of healing of all sorts that have resulted through appropriate use of one's mind over the past century and more. Having a process understanding of the healing process can add to one's expectation and visualizing of the healing process, and having an awareness of possibilities for practically working with the presence of God for practical purposes in directly (rather than indirectly in directing one's muscles) applied ways can enlarge the scope of one's reasonably optimistic approach to living.

Moreover, Process New Thought, and even conventional New Thought, can provide a means of bridging back to traditional Christianity. Quimby believed that he had discovered

he lost healing method of Jesus, and, in the opinion of Horatio Dresser,

His manuscripts are for the most part devoted to a study of his experiences with the sick in such a way as to show that the truths they implied were the truths which Jesus came to reveal.31

In trying to emulate Jesus and concentrate on his teachings, rather than teachings about him, New Thought provides this opening. Further, in stressing the teachings of the man Jesus (and a possible way of understanding at least some of what he was doing in his healing work), rather than theology about him, Process New Thought provides process thought with another way of reaching out to non- Christian religions.

Finally, Process New Thought, without claiming originality in anything but perhaps some details, can add to or at least offer specifications in relation to love of neighbor and encouragement of faith in the goodness of life presented in David Ray Griffin's chapter on Hartshorne in David Ray Griffin, John B. Cobb, Jr., Marcus P. Ford, Pete A. Y. Gunter, and Peter Ochs, Founders of Constructive Postmodern Philosophy: Peirce, James, Bergson, Whitehead, and Hartshorne32 Greatly abbreviated, these specifications include (1) newness every moment; (2) possibility of significant new departures from the past at any time; (3) no reason for you to regret "your" past, since you were not there; (4) no effort ever is wasted; (5) cooperation is essential; (6) you can't take it with you beyond your fraction of a second of awareness as a subject, although you can give to all of the future the gift of your present self; (7) you can afford to risk everything, to go for broke, in this precious moment, which is all that you have, so it is foolish to settle for less than the best; (8) love is ultimate; (9) the power of gentleness and the futility of force; (10) understanding all kinds of prayer and other treatment as enrichment of the past for easier reception of God's offer of the best possibilities; (11) evil as acceptance of less than God offers; (12) exciting living in the context of a constant yet growing God.33


In conclusion, New Age and New Thought interpenetrate each other. New Age is too large, vague, and disorganized to deal with helpfully. New Thought is small enough, at least in its organizational and doctrinal core, to be examined profitably. We have seen that New Thought has both pantheistic and nonpantheistic sides, the latter best expressed in process terms. In a two-way street, process thought offers intelligibility and explanatory power to New Thought; New Thought offers practical, constructive power to process thought, through a coherent interpretation of healing as well as partly through a long list of practical spirit-lifting implications, as well as through use of traditional New Thought techniques referred to in the paper by Deborah G. Whitehouse presented at this conference.


1. C. Alan Anderson and Deborah G. Whitehouse, New Thought: A Practical American Spirituality (New York: The Crossroad Publishing Company, 1995), p. 109.

2. Some recent dictionaries define, and in most entries date, New Age, and define New Thought, as follows:

The American Heritage College Dictionary 3rd edition (1993):

adj. Of or relating to a complex of spiritual and consciousness-raising movements of the 1980's, including belief in spiritualism and reincarnation and holistic approaches to health and ecology.

n. Mus. Modern music marked by soft tones on instruments such as acoustic piano, guitar, or synthesizer. --New Ager n.

This dictionary defines New Thought as "a modern religious movement that emphasizes spiritual healing and positive thought."

Merriam Webster's Collegiate Dictionary 10th edition (1993):

adj. (1956) 1: of, relating to, or being a late 20th century social movement drawing on ancient concepts esp. from Eastern and American Indian traditions and incorporating such themes as holism, concern for nature, spirituality, and metaphysics.

2: of, relating to, or being a soft soothing form of instrumental music often used to promote relaxation.

The 10th edition of this dictionary, noted for its authoritative definitions of Christian Science terms (including a lengthy one defining that religion and definitions of its understandings of the terms principle and scientist, does not include the term New Thought. However, the 9th edition (1983) contains "New Thought n (1887): a mental healing movement embracing small groups devoted to spiritual healing and the creative power of constructive thinking." This seems to be a condensation of the same publisher's Webster's Third New International Dictionary (1961, 1986) definition of New Thought as

a mental healing movement embracing a number of small groups and organizations devoted generally to such ideas as spiritual healing, the creative power of constructive thinking, and personal guidance from an inner presence.

Without checking all editions of Webster's Collegiate Dictionary, I have found that its 5th edition (1936) defines New Thought as "any form of modern practice of mental healing other than those associated with traditional Christianity, Christian Science, and hypnotism and psychotherapy."

Random House Webster's College Dictionary (1996):

adj. 1. of or pertaining to a movement espousing a broad range of philosophies and practices traditionally viewed as occult, metaphysical, or paranormal.

2. of or pertaining to an unintrusive style of music using both acoustic and electronic instruments and drawing on classical music, jazz, and rock.

-n. 3. the New Age movement [1970-75]

This dictionary defines New Thought as "a movement originating in the 19th century that stresses the power of thought to control physical and mental events."

Webster's New World Dictionary, 3rd edition (1994):

often n-a- 1 of or pertaining to a contemporary cultural movement characterized by a concern with spiritual consciousness and variously combining belief in reincarnation and astrology with such practices as meditation, vegetarianism, and holistic medicine

2 designating or of a style of popular instrumental music characterized by simple, repetitive melodies and intended to effect a serene mood

This dictionary defines New Thought as "a modern religious philosophy emphasizing the power of mind in achieving health and happiness."

3. That the term New Age is associated with the final book of the Bible is emphasized by one of the early New Thoughters, whom we shall consider below, Emma Curtis Hopkins, who wrote:

Mystical Science is a chalice of golden wine passed along . . . by John's angels of the Apocalypse. It is a new song for the hearts of the Children of the New Age. High Mysticism (Cornwall Bridge, CT: High Watch Fellowship, n.d.), p. 322.

Swedenborgian association with the term is shown in a book by another important New Thoughter, also to be considered below: W. F. Evans, The New Age and its Messenger (Boston: T. H. Carter & Company, 1864).

4. Marilyn Ferguson, The Aquarian Conspiracy: Personal and Social Transformation in the 1980s (Los Angeles: J. P. Tarcher, Inc., 1987, with Afterword added to 1980 original edition), p. 23.

5. Ibid., p. 434. The references to Whitehead are brief and do not suggest deep knowledge of his thought.

6. J. Gordon Melton, Jerome Clark, and Aidan A. Kelly, New Age Almanac (New York, Chicago, Detroit, London: Visible Ink, 1991), pp. 3-4.

7. Declaration of Principles, published in each issue of New Thought:

[1] We affirm the inseparable oneness of God and humankind, the realization of which comes through spiritual intuition, the implications of which are that we can reproduce the Divine perfection in our bodies, emotions, and all our external affairs.

[2] We affirm the freedom of each person in matters of belief.

[3] We affirm the Good to be supreme, universal and eternal.

[4] We affirm that the Kingdom of Heaven is within us, that we are one with the Father, that we should love one another and return good for evil.

[5] We affirm that we should heal the sick through prayer and that we should endeavor to manifest perfection "even as our Father in Heaven is perfect."

[6] We affirm our belief in God as the Universal Wisdom, Love, Life, Truth, Power, Peace, Plenty, Beauty and Joy, "in whom we live, and move and have our being."

[7] We affirm that our mental states are carried forward into manifestation and become our experience through the Creative Law of Cause and Effect.

[8] We affirm that the Divine Nature expressing Itself through us manifests itself as health, supply, wisdom, love, life, truth, power, peace, beauty and joy.

[9] We affirm that we are invisible spiritual dwellers within human bodies continuing and unfolding as spiritual beings beyond the change called physical death.

[10] We affirm that the universe is the body of God, spiritual in essence, governed by God through laws which are spiritual in reality, even when material in appearance.

In the most comprehensive history of New Thought, Charles S. Braden, Spirits in Rebellion: The Rise and Development of New Thought (Dallas: Southern Methodist University Press, 1963), p. 200, it is noted that this 1954 revision of the Declaration is "essentially Trowardian" in its emphasis on law as the means by which God operates, an emphasis not found in the 1917 Declaration.

8. During the first few decades of using the term New Thought it was customary to speak of the New Thought.

9. Horatio W. Dresser, Handbook of the New Thought (New York and London: G. P. Putnam's Sons, 1917), pp. 19-21.

10. Horatio W. Dresser, "Quimby's Technique," of uncertain origin, largely reproduced in C. Alan Anderson, Healing Hypotheses: Horatio W. Dresser and the Philosophy of New Thought (New York and London: Garland Publishing, Inc., 1993), pp. 286-87 et passim.

11. Horatio W. Dresser, A History of the New Thought Movement (New York: Thomas Y. Crowell Company, 1919), p. 120. One of the most famous writings showing the derivation of Eddy's thought from Quimby's was a large unsigned article in the July 10, 1904, Magazine Section of The New York Times: "True Origin of Christian Science: Documentary Evidence Refuting Mrs. Eddy's Claim That Her System Was Revealed to Her by God." This article presents "The Deadly Parallel" between the two systems.

12. Ibid., p. 122.

13. Ibid., p. 120.

14. Ibid., p. 122. See David Ray Griffin, Parapsychology, Philosophy, and Spirituality: A Postmodern Exploration (Albany: State University of New York Press, 1997), passim, on the relationship of paranormal experiences in relation to process thought, as well as other philosophy.

15. It is appropriate to refer to pantheistic and pantheism in connection with New Thought, since it regularly refers to the allness of God. However, Paul A. Laughlin, Unity minister and Professor and Chairperson of the Department of Religion and Philosophy in Otterbein College has supported neutral monism, rather than pantheism, in his "Re-Turning East: Watering the Withered Roots of New Thought," Journal of the Society for the Study of Metaphysical Religion 3 (Fall 1997): 113-33, and "Hindu Philosophy and the Future of New Thought Revisited," 4 (Spring 198): 75-111.

16. Anderson, op. cit., pp. 90-92 and sources cited there.

17. Emma Curtis Hopkins, Scientific Christian Mental Practice (Cornwall Bridge, CT: High Watch Fellowship, 1958), p. 12.

18. Ibid., pp. 13-14.

19. Hopkins, Scientific Christian Mental Practice, pp. 37-38.

20. Hopkins, High Mysticism, p. 33.

21. Dresser, A History of the New Thought Movement, p. 135:

In his Facts and Fictions of Mental Healing, Boston, 1887, Mr. Charles M. Barrows, formerly a teacher and well acquainted with the history of thought, looked back to ancient India to find forerunners of the new ideas. Mr. Barrows also pointed out that the same idealistic wisdom was contained in the writings of Emerson, howbeit none of the therapeutic leaders had until then noted the resemblance. This was the beginning of interest in Emerson on the part of those who later became known as New Thought leaders.

22. Neal Vahle, Torch-Bearer to Light the Way: The Life of Myrtle Fillmore (Mill Valley, CA: Open View Press, 1996), pp. 231-32.

23. Ibid., pp. 224-27.

24. David Ray Griffin and Huston Smith, Primordial Truth and Postmodern Theology (Albany: State University of New York Press, 1989), p. 201.

25. Thompson Jay Hudson, The Law of Psychic Phenomena (Chicago: A. C. McClurg and Company, 1893). On Troward's learning of and use of Hudson, see Harry Gaze, My Personal Recollections of Thomas Troward (published by the author, 1958), booklet 1 (of 3), p. 9. That Troward was not equally open to process thought is indicated by Paul Derick's tribute to the then recently deceased Troward in the foreword of Troward's The Law and the Word. Derick mentions his loaning Troward a copy of Bergson's Creative Evolution and Troward's returning it "with the characteristic remark, 'I've tried my best to get hold of him, but I don't know what he is talking about.'"

26. Thompson Jay Hudson, The Divine Pedigree of Man (Chicago: A. C. McClurg& Co., 1899), p. 41; italics in original. I have emphasized the importance of recognizing the personal nature of God in New Thought: A Practical American Spirituality, pp. 92-94.

27. Fenwicke L. Holmes, Ernest Holmes: His Life and Times (New York: Dodd, Mead& Company, 1970), p. 234, tells of Ernest Holmes's attempt to refute a charge of pantheism by saying, "I believe that all that is is God, but I do not believe that it is all there is of God." Perhaps he meant that there something of a transcendent quality of God, but his saying that all that is is God certainly places him within pantheism.

28. "There is always an advantage in radical claims." Dresser. A History of the New Thought Movement, p. 130. It is much easier, and more popular, to say that God is all than to explain the complexities of process philosophy.

29. Horatio W. Dresser, "An Interpretation of the Vedanta," The Arena 22 (October 1899): 489-508.

30. Hartshorne offers his blend of realism and idealism in his "realistic idealism." The following is from Charles Hartshorne, edited with an introduction by Mohammad Valady, The Zero Fallacy and Other Essays in Neoclassical Philosophy (Chicago and La Salle, Illinois, 1997), pp. 138- 39; originally published as "The Synthesis of Idealism and Realism," in Theoria (Sweden) 15, 1949, pp. 90-107:

1. An "object," or that of which a particular subject is aware, in no degree depends upon that subject. Principle of Objective Independence. "Common sense." Aristotle. G. E. Moore, R. B. Perry, Whitehead.

2. A "subject," or whatever is aware of anything, always depends upon (derives some of its character from) the entities of which it is aware, its objects. Principle of Subjective Dependence. "Common sense." Aristotle, Whitehead.

(1) and (2) constitute "realism."

3. Any entity must be (or at least be destined to become) object for some subject or subjects. Principle of Universal Objectivity. Berkeley, Whitehead.

4. Any concrete entity is a subject, or set of subjects; hence any other concrete entity of which a subject, S1, is aware is another subject or subjects (S2; or S2, S3, etc.). Principle of Universal Subjectivity. "Psychicalism." (I avoid "panpsychism," because it has been misused.) Leibniz, Peirce, Whitehead, etc.

The doctrine of this article is that these four principles are not in conflict or competition with each other, but are rather complementary or mutually supporting. The theory which asserts all four principles as forming a coherent unity may be called, with Whitehead, "reformed subjectivism"; also "societism," for it amounts to a social theory of reality.

Hartshorne also offers a beautifully helpful statement of the mind-body relationship in his Omnipotence and Other Theological Mistakes (Albany: State University of New York, 1984), p. 80-81:

. . . our cells respond to our feelings (and thoughts) because we respond to their feelings (and would respond to their thoughts if they had any). Hurt my cells and you hurt me. Give my cells a healthy life, and they give me a feeling of vitality and at least minimal happiness. My sense of welfare tends to sum up theirs, and their misfortunes tend to become negative feelings of mine. I feel what many cells feel, integrating these feelings into a higher unity. I am somewhat as their deity, their fond heavenly companion. They gain their direction and sense of the goodness of life partly from intuiting my sense of that goodness, which takes theirs intuitively into account. . . . Theologically applied, the principle explains the quality and scope of God's influence . . . God charms every creature irresistibly to whatever extent is compatible with that creature's level of freedom. . . . Because God loves each creature better than it or its fellows can love it, the creature, even though it is necessarily partly self-creative, cannot but make some response to the divine love.

31. Dresser, A History of the New Thought Movement, pp. 47-48.

32. David Ray Griffin, John B. Cobb, Jr., Marcus P. Ford, Pete A. Y. Gunter, and Peter Ochs, Founders of Constructive Postmodern Philosophy: Peirce, James, Bergson, Whitehead, and Hartshorne (Albany: State University of New York Press, 1993), p. 222.

33. I have expressed these in various ways, most recently as follows, from "Pluralistic Idealism: Only Mind, Many Minds"

Journal of the Society for the Study of Metaphysical Religion 4(Spring 1998): 23- 60.

1. You, the universe, and God are new every moment.

2. You can make a significant new departure at any time. You can be burdened by the past much less than you probably believe.

3. There is no reason for you to regret "your" past. You were not there: the you of that moment is one of the ancestors of the you of this moment.

4. No effort ever is wasted. All occasions of experience, including you, become objectively immortal when they complete their split-second subjective careers, and thereafter they influence everything forever, in some degree.

5. Cooperation is essential. Unless something that you are committed to doing takes no more than a small fraction of a second, you are only a fleeting part of a relatively long cooperative program of many generations of experiences, and involving other lines of development. The entire universe is involved in any act.

6. You can't take it with you beyond your fraction of a second of awareness as a subject. However, nothing that you have ever done is lost. It will be forever in God and in your successors, who in some degree will identify with you (however wisely or foolishly), most likely both before and after death.

7. You can afford to risk everything, to go for broke, in providing your greatest momentary satisfaction and the best background out of which your successors will arise. It is foolish to settle for less than the best: which is what God always offers.

8. Love is ultimate, both in God's offering of the best possibilities to all developing experiences and in our giving of ourselves to others, whether bearing our names or others.

9. Understanding God as the ultimate lure for feeling, we appreciate the power of gentleness and the futility of force. Here is no anthropomorphic God, nor yet a mere principle. The one to whom we ultimately respond is the ultimate Person, utterly impartial and perfectly loving. Embracing this God can serve, additionally, as a bridge to the Western religions that reject any pantheism.

10. We can understand all kinds of prayer and other treatment, ranging from taking an aspirin or undergoing surgery to affirmation or visualization, as ways of enriching the immediate pasts of occasions (usually people) being helped. Treatment does this by reducing the discrepancies between their negative pasts and the possibilities presented to them by God, enabling new experiences to opt for God's perfect plans more easily than they could otherwise. This obviously dispenses with any need for theorizing that God or any part of God acts in a mechanical, deductive way. God is the initiator and we the responders with regard to any moment in question (although God adjusts aims to fit one's situation in relation to past selections made by one's predecessors.)

11. Evil is the acceptance of lesser possibilities [influences of the past] than God's offers. Any creation is good to the extent that it converts potentiality to actuality. But backward-looking, lesser-than-perfect blends are of less value than are more positive selections, both to the occasion in question and to God in God's forming of the most beautiful whole. Evil always is about might-have- beens, about the way that we wish that things had been.

12. All concrete, actual, reality is growing, evolving, in flux. The panentheistic, all- inclusive personal God is never changing in loving, divine character, but is always expanding in experience. This is an awesome vision of an open future.

Much material relating to conventional New Thought and Process New Thought is found on the World Wide Web (linked to

C. Alan Anderson, Ph.D.
Professor of Philosophy and Religion
Curry College
1071 Blue Hill Avenue
Milton, Massachusetts 02186-2395
(617) 333-2145 or (781) 828-6965 or

Created August 13, 1998
by Alan Anderson
Contact Info.

To "New Age, New Thought, and Process Thought: A Psychological Perspective", a paper presented at the same session as this paper.

To Phineas Parkhurst Quimby.

To The Philosophy of P. P. Quimby by Annetta Gertrude Dresser (and Horatio W. Dresser).

To "Quimby as Founder of New Thought".

To Process Philosophy and the New Thought Movement, with links to process philosophy sites.

To New Thought: A Practical American Spirituality, with links to parts of the book online.

To New Thought Movement Home Page.